Many actors develop a cult of personality. There’s good old Bruce Campbell for instance, who gamely tolerates droves of black-clad B-movie aficionados regurgitating hammy lines he uttered in the Eighties. There’s Vin Diesel too, with his absolutely demented, messianic and very fan friendly facebook page (filled with amazing photoshopped pictures of him standing next to elephants and that. Seriously go have a look, it’s absolutely fantastic).
Another actor that’s embraced his cult of personality and opened himself up to his fans is Crispin Hellion Glover. Best known for playing George McFly in Back To The Future (as well as going apeshit on David Letterman) he’s maintained a solid career since, blimey, before some of you were even born.
He’s also destined to play the Joker at least once in his career, and if it doesn’t happen Hollywood’s missed the biggest opportunity ever.
Most disturbingly, he doesn’t seem to have aged in about 25 years. We’d like to suspect dark magicks, but we’re guessing it’s more down to his vegan diet and teetotal ways. So don’t do drugs kids.
Anyhoo, enough with the preamble, Mr Glover is much beloved by film fans for not only being a fantastic actor, but a highly erudite iconoclast. In an age of photographer punching, badly behaved big mouthed prima donnas (hi Shia), Glover’s a softly spoken, fiercely independent alternative.
Though he’s part of the Hollywood system and has been a willing participant (not even God could explain what he was doing in Charlie’s Angels), he’s also produced and directed two movies that would leave Hollywood bigwigs uttering ‘eh?’
Crispin hopped on a plane to the UK to show his films What Is It? and It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine! to a wildly intelligent, well dressed audience at the Phoenix Cinema, London for a two night stint. Accompanying each movie would be a slide show and a question and answer session. ScifiNow attended the second night, where he screened his debut, What Is It?
After getting inordinately excited upon seeing the man himself quaintly ask for a glass of water in the upstairs bar, we entered the theatre to witness Glover’s slideshow. We didn’t really know what to expect.
The last slide show we sat through was in a geography lesson, and part way through some nonsense about off shore drifts, we off shore drifted into snoozey land ourselves, so we feared something like a selection of Crispin’s holiday snaps, him enthusiastically pointing out some mountain he climbed up, or a patch of grass where his pet left an errant poo.
Alas it was not like that. It was a frenzied reading of pages from Glover’s books, non-sequiturs and shocking revelations delivered with fervour and menace by a deranged, gesticulating actor. Tales of rat catching, visits to the zoo and boys metamorphosing into fish creatures were thrown at an audience, enthralled and confused in equal measures. It was more like performance art, a one man theatre of the absurd. Needless to say there was no snoozing here.
After reading through eight of his books, and showing slides from said tomes (which were like the inner sleeve of a Mr Bungle album), he screened his debut movie What Is It?, a surrealist jaunt that’s as confusing and baffling as it is mesmerising and shocking.
The cast is comprised mostly of unknowns, most with Downs Syndrome, Glover himself, journalist Adam Parfrey (who gives a terrifying performance as a blank, dead eyed minstrel that wishes to become an invertebrate) and actress Fairuza Balk (The Craft, Return To Oz), giving voice to a distraught snail.
What follows is a 70 minute assault of taboo breaking imagery, disturbing ambience and some oddly funny bits of dialogue. Despite being borderline impenetrable, it did seem to follow some semblance of structure, though we’ll be damned if we can explain any of it.
After the movie Glover came out for a question and answer section, making it perfectly clear why he chose to make these movies. He’s a gracious host; witty, self-deprecating, sagacious (he has possibly the loveliest, most distinctive voice ever, and he should bloody do some audiobooks) and incredibly focussed and adamant about the meaning behind his work.
Though he doesn’t say it outright, he seems distinctly nonplussed with the largely unchallenging, wholesome mainstream movie industry, and his productions –replete with shocking imagery and concepts- betray a yearning for the industry as a whole to be more inventive ,adventurous and less afraid of offending or being beholden to shareholders. He’s happy to talk at length and answer every question about his movies and his career, no matter how often he’s doubtless heard similar questions from devotees around the globe.
After he finished, ScifiNow dawdled off somewhere else, images from the evening still freshly burned into our malleable, balding heads. We’re never going to look at a snail again without bursting into tears.
Hopefully Glover will make a return trip, and we absolutely recommend you take the time out to go see him, as you’ll have an intriguing evening’s entertainment ahead of you. Just don’t ask him about Epic Movie. Christ.